Serengeti, Tanzania: (Day 18) Dec-28-2013

I woke up before 5:00am so that I could get ready and call Kelly before my game drive.  We took the same 4x4s as we were in yesturday.  We were just leaving camp in our vehicles by 6:00am, way before the sunrise.  Everyone had taken their original seats, as they were in yesturday.  I had asked if we could all rotate to give everyone equal views--everyone agreed.

I slept fairly well, past out before 10:00 and got a solid 6.5 hours of sleep.  I don't recall waking during the night but I may have once or twice.  I had asked the others how they slept...seeing as many in our group haven't slept in tents for many many years.  They said it was all-in-all good, but they had their fair share of complaining (which is understandable).  It was still pitch black at 5:30 when we congragated for tea and coffee.  The stars were shining beautifully--I will try to remember to take a few photos of the star-filled sky tonight.

Sunrise in the Serengeti, Tanzania

On safari we stopped to see the sunrise, it was breathtaking--Exactly how I had imagined.  The dark sky showed a gradient of colors: deep red, turned into red, into orange, and yellow.  The horizen, lit by the morning sun, were silloetted with acacia trees.  Birds flying above were identifyable only by their black bodies which sharply contrasted with sky's light.

Hyena and Jackal in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We first came across a few hyenas being joined by several jackels.  It was interesting seeing such different animals walking around together.  One of the hyenas was pregnant.  We saw some elephants and giraffes throughout the day, but not in the quantity or proximity as in the other national parks.

The Serengeti was bare of most of its grass just a few short weeks ago--now it is overflowing with life.  It seems to be the perfect time for game viewing.  Except for a VERY small % of the land the grass is plenty short and does not hide any of the animals.  We passed termite mounds, which are everywhere here in Africa, and took a bush break.  The area looked looked like a tropical island amid an ocean of grass.  The rocky terrain was unusual for the area, I think it must have been some type of volcanic rock--a byproduct of the volcanoes that helped to form the Ngorongoro crater.

Zebras in the Serengeti, Tanzania
The roads were spread out much farther than in the other national parks we have visited thus far.  This allows for a more 'immersed' feeling--however, it is harder to get close to
the animals.  We came across several groups of lions, some were sun bathing, others were getting some shade.  Towards the end of our drive we watched 3 lions climb a tree while one large male lion relaxed at its base.  It was a bit hard to view due to the distance but still amazing.

A Cheetah in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We ended our game drive just before 11:00 and arrived back at camp at 11:10.  5 hours of driving around nature and now we just finished lunch (12:15).  We ate pancakes, toast, fruit, pasta, and taco meet--it was good.  Now we have 3 or so hours to kill before our next game drive.  Some are showering, but I don't see the point...I'll just get dirty again.  It's probably too hot/humid to relax in the tent, but maybe I'll try.

I have asked both Godfrey and our 4x4 driver to stop at a Maasai village on our way to Ngorongoro crater tomorrow.  I want to try their cuisine.  Enjoying cow blood mixed with milk at a Maasai village inside the Serengeti--what a lifelasting memory, I'm sure.

It's 3:00 now and with the exception of 2 or so people all of our groups  is waiting at the shelter for our 4:00 game drive.  These last 4 hours have been the lonest 4 hours ever.  Other than a showering and sweating there isn't much else to do.  I tried to gather wood and build a stone-rimmed firepit but one of the guides told me that fires aren't allowed.  Maybe tomorrow at the Ngorongoro Crater?  I think I'm comming down with something, probably a bit of a cold.  The back of my throat feels funny, in that not quite sore but possibly swollen kind of a way.  Gargling saltwater would probably help though.

Lions in a tree  in the Serengeti, Tanzania

I can't believe I have been on vacation for 22 days.  It's weird becuase the days are long yet the weeks are so short.  Africa has been a learning experience for me, but I don't think I will make it back here anytime soon...and quite possibly never again in my lifetime.  The natural beauty is wonderful, but the culteral/societal aspects are really lacking.  With the very few acceptions I have witnessed Africa seems to be a place where people just live unremarkable and meaningless lives.  I am sure that sounds cruel and closed-minded.  I feel there is no internal passion in the people here to change their present.  Example:  At a given border-crossing from one country to another lines are long, the workers are slow and dull, and groups of men loiter outside the building to shade themselves during the heat of the day--when asked about these issues the all-too-common response is T.I.A., which means "This is Africa".  What is indirectly being said is 'this is how it has to be', 'it cannot be fixed/controled any more so than it currently is', 'it's beyond MY control'.  It's readily appearant that Africans are continuely shifting blame and justifying their current state of helplessness.

However, I do believe people here are incredibly resourceful--using the 'land' and its fruits as building supplies, medicines, food, tools, etc.  I wonder how much of this resourcefullness is a form of rote memorization learned at a young age and how much is genuine innovation?

I know that if the educational system were better here children would understand that they can make a difference and that they are capable of....well something!  Education is so important and the more I travel the more I understand that.  Yes, we are all the least in a basic sense.  It has been proven that certain 'demographics' have a genetic disposition to be 'smarter', 'taller', 'stronger', 'more aggressive', etc..  But its through education that we are able to understand what our limitations are and where they are NOT.  In Africa I get the feeling that people think 'Whites' are superior and that 'We' look downly upon the 'Blacks'.  There is something about the entirety of Africa that gives me the notion that the Master/Slave relationship is very much alive here.  Ok, sorry for ranting...just trying to kill time until we can leave.  3:20...ok, I'll have to figure something else to do for 40 minutes.

Elephants in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Our game drive was very dissapointing.  Our driver gave some excuse that we had to be 'done' with our drive by 6.  He said it was park rules, which I knew to be false.  We ended up going to the grocer so that our guide could buy a torch.  Was this why he cut the safari short?  We didn't see many animals.  A few elephants and giraffes, birds, and probably some other unsignificant animals, but nothing to blog about.  I felt as if the driver would stop for anything.  There would be one bird barely in eye's view and he would stop the car, turn off the engine, give a 1 minute speech about it, and then wait 4 more minutes until  starting the car again.  In this time he would be chatting to friends on his phone.  Of the two other guides one is supposedly very good, but it may just be the case that Godfrey is driving with them.  The other guide is just as bad as ours and others have already complained.

Our driver drives VERY slowly, constantly being passed by other vehicles.  I think it may be because he will make more money the less gas he uses.  I  am planning on having a very serious discussion with Godfrey this morning about it because I do not want my experience at the crater to be the same.

Night Sky in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We got back to the campground and it was packed, even more-so than the previous night.  We sat down for dinner at 7:30 and were served soup right away.  However, we had to wait another 40 minutes before we were served anything else.  The dinner was fried fish, corn salad (with cucumber  and avacado), and potatoes.  I ate mostly the salad, the others were not too good.  Talked on the phone for a while and watched an episode of Dr. Who.  I was sleeping sometime between 11:00 and midnight.

The Serengeti is beautiful, but the animal density is fairly low--I wonder if this is due to the vast size of the park.  It is over 14,000 sq km.

Oh, a few more notes.  The company we're using for the Serengeti tour is "Tanzania Experience".  When I asked our driver, "so tomorrow we're leaving early, probably around 6 or 7" he gave me attitude and said he didn't have to leave until later and that the rules only said...fuck that.  Godfrey talked to them and now we're leaving at 7.  Also, I was told that during their lunch break on the first day's drive they had asked if they were able to take out the mattresses and take a little nap before hitting the have to kidding me!  Then they had asked Godfrey if they could cook at 10:00 so they could have some time to rest.   These tour guides are making it hard for me to remain 'PC' in these posts--at least as 'PC' as I am humanly capable of.  I will definetely be talking to Godfrey.